Warren votes to auction brick schoolSettlement on the horizon
Warren — Residents voted Nov. 7 auction the brick school to the highest bidder as part of an out-of-court settlement with businessman Robert Emery.
The building at 44 School St. has been at the center of controversy in the town since 2010 when Emery had an agreement to purchase the property and planned to work with CRC Health Group to establish a methadone clinic there.
More than 50 residents attended the special town meeting at the Warren Community School, and voted 32-18 via secret ballot to approve the auction and sale. The meeting took less than 30 minutes.
The motion to auction the school was made by resident Peter Craig and seconded by George Knutson.
Warren had entered into a conditional settlement agreement with parties involved in a dispute over the sale of the brick school at 44 School St., according to a document posted Oct. 1 on the town website.
The proposed resolution of the dispute involves auctioning the property and dividing the proceeds of the sale as follows: 15 percent will serve as a buyer's premium to the auction company; costs of advertising will be reimbursed to the town; the remaining 60 percent will go to the plaintiff Robert Emery, Jr. through his company Vixen Land Holdings LLC; and 40 percent will go to the town.
Emery could be the highest bidder, be awarded the property, pay the town 40 percent of the purchase price and take possession of 44 School St.
The settlement agreement will fully and finally resolve the legal dispute, and states that "no party admits any wrongdoing."
In fall 2010, Emery had a purchase-and-sale agreement to buy the brick school from the town and planned to serve as landlord to CRC Health Group there.
In May 2011, the town told Emery the contract was null and void due to breach of contract. The town said Emery failed to secure a written commitment from a lender for the project, as stipulated in the sale agreement. However, town attorney William Kelly explained the plaintiffs had indeed provided written notice to the town that they would be buying the property in cash.
In February, a United States District court judge threw out two federal claims and one state claim of Emery's who alleged he was protected under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, and was discriminated against by the town of Warren.
Also on the warrant was an article asking residents to decide whether to continue to waive foreclosure of the tax lien on the Steamship Navigation Company property — rifle range — off Route 90 in Warren.
This was approved by a majority of the voters.
The town has opted for several years not to foreclose on the former gun range out of concern that it might have to pay for a cleanup of the property. The company left a large quantity of flammable polyester fiber scraps there, which it had planned to use to build berms for the rifle range.
The most recent development with the rifle range occurred when the Maine Department of Environmental Protection awarded a bid for cleanup to Triumvirate Environmental, Inc. of Somerville, Mass.
Selectman Ed LaFlamme said following the cleanup, the town will look to obtain the property for back taxes, but said "it is not the proper time right now."
"Then it will be put before the voters as to what to do with it," said LaFlamme.
Still in limbo
In a separate ongoing court deliberation, the pending federal lawsuit by CRC vs. the Town of Warren was slated to begin July 1.
"We are a long way from any trial," said Attorney Sigmund Schutz of Preti, Flaherty, Beliveau & Pachios, LLP, representing Warren in a statement June 29 after the town filed a motion for partial summary judgment.
The town argues this "case is no longer about providing services to recovering drug addicts," according to the court document. Rather, the "case is now about an attempt by CRC to collect lost profits it claims it would have earned had it eventually opened and successfully operated a clinic."
CRC's federal lawsuit against the town over blocking of the methadone clinic has remained in limbo since September 2012.
Courier Publications reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.